Women are funny, I think. One minute, our nurturing nature goes overboard and we are whispering behind the backs of our neighbors, outraged by this or that, insisting that we know what is best for them. The next minute, we are organizing meals for those same neighbors when they hit on hard times. Within hours, our nurturing nature rises to the occasion as emails are sent, text messages exchanged, and Facebook statuses updated on what and how best to serve the family in need.
The philosopher-saint Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) would likely attribute this dynamic to our soul (see a collection of her essays titled, “Woman”). Specifically, our female soul, our “woman” soul. I know, the term “woman” is often so loaded with meaning. Depending on what crowd utters the term, we might envision a fierce “bring home the bacon fry it up in a pan” mantra, or else a sentimental, doting love at our own nature. Sometimes, even within the Church, we stumble upon some notion of what a woman is by a badly interpreted vision of Proverbs 31 crossed with a strict and literal reading of Ephesians 5:22.
But for Edith Stein it was none of those things. Stein looks back at creation – right back to the very beginning of the Bible – and sees where “in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” She sees in this moment what the Catechism confirms, that the “divine image is present” in all of us. She recognizes that, for women, the presence of the divine image is made manifest in the nurturing nature of her soul.
You and me. We are made in his image. Our neighbors – both physical and allegorical – are made in His image. When we become overly involved in their affairs, when we whisper about them and gossip, it is an assault against the divine image present in that person. Just as, when we lend a hand, take a meal, pray for a friend, we are giving aid to the divine image present in that friend.
Let’s become the women we were meant to be. Let’s say “yes” today so that it’s an echo of that “yes” given so many years ago. If we can do that – if we can nurture those around us and care for them – we, too, will be bringing Jesus to those who need him.
Reflection 1: The nurturing nature of women has a downside. Too often, we insert ourselves too deeply into other people’s lives, “caring for them.” Is there a situation in your life where you are too involved? Do you need to step back?
Reflection 2: Conversely, is there someone in your life that could benefit from the love that flows through you from the Divine Heart? How might you bring Jesus to this person or persons? Through a smile? A home cooked meal? Conversation about a good book?
Act: For the rest of the day (why not try it for a week?) ask God to make you conscious of the “divine image” within the people around you. Allow this realization to affect your interactions with them.
This reflection first appeared January 16, 2017, at Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship as a part of their Theology of the Body online Bible study.